Yes, You Do Need Travel Insurance "Does your health insurance cover you in Liberia?" I was asked by a doctor aboard Celebrity Cruises' Galaxy. "Well, you're in Liberia right now," he pointed out. Like the vast majority of cruise ships, Galaxy is a foreign flag ship. But most Americans don't realize their regular health insurance may not cover them outside the U.S.When your sights are set on an exciting cruise and sun-filled beaches, it's a drag to consider options to protect oneself against unforeseen events that may mar your expensive vacation-not to mention the additional cost.BUT IT'S TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK.In addition to illness or accidents, here are other scenarios you may face:
You've paid for your cruise six months out and a crisis hits: you're downsized out of a job, there's a death in the family or some other catastrophe hits so can't take that cruise. While the deadline for a "free" cancellation has passed, you may think that the cruise line will surely have a heart and waive the penalty. Wrong!
Cruise lines do not waive penalties for cancelling passengers without insurance. You must expect they will strictly enforce their cancellation policies no matter how dire the circumstances. And your travel agent can do nothing.
A big snowstorm hits the day you're scheduled to join a cruise, and your flight is cancelled. Finally you make it for part of the cruise, but you've missed several days you paid for. Is the cruise line or airline responsible? Neither--read the small print on your tickets. Only the right cruise insurance will make up for this loss. It's important to know that if a health issue arises on the cruise, you're unlikely to find medical conditions comparable to those in the U.S.: Cruise ships aren't required to conform to American medical standards. Conditions at foreign hospitals are sometimes relatively primitive by American standards. A doctor aboard Radisson Diamond recounted the story of a passenger whose life was saved because he had insurance. After he suffered a stroke, he was airlifted to a hospital in Houston with advanced technology. Otherwise, the ship would have had to put him in the nearest hospital: Bogota, Columbia, which lacks much life-saving medical care.Cruise agent Gloria Price of the Travel Company says, "people shut down when they hear the word "insurance"--but you may get ripped off if you don't get it. Travel insurance is expensive, but invaluable if you have a problem. Then, it really gets expensive," she says.Without insurance, you're putting money on the table for the weather and the airlines' labor problems. All cruise lines impose penalties for cancellation, and it's your responsibility to know what they are."But it's your responsibility to ask. Travel agents are sometimes trained to avoid talking about cancellation, period. That's a big disservice. If you have to cancel, travel insurance will protect you," Price says."If you have a medical condition, are under treatment or pregnant, you owe it to yourself to tell the travel agent," Gloria Price says. "Pre-existing medical conditions aren't covered by cruise line travel insurance, but your agent can recommend a policy that does cover them, such as Travel Guard or Travel Access insurance."Cruise lines and airlines claim no responsibility for anything outside their control. If you miss your plane because of a storm, there's no reimbursement for missed days aboard ship. Insurance would give you some recourse.In the event of a weather or carrier-caused delay, no airline is obligated to connect you with the ship--only to get you to your ticketed destination. And the cruise line isn't obligated to pay any extra costs involved in connecting you with the ship.In addition, there's the added security of knowing that travel insurance can offer partial or full compensation if you can't travel. "Buy a comprehensive trip cancellation-interruption policy," which offers reimbursement for cancellation penalty prior to leaving home, plus out of pocket compensation, Gloria Price cautions. Otherwise, "Whenever there is a problem, the traveler always loses. They loose either time, or money, but most often both."INSURANCE OPTIONS AND COSTS:The price of travel insurance is based on the price of your vacation. For example, insurance coverage for a $1,500 to $2,000 vacation is approximately $175.You generally have two options when it comes to travel insurance: the cruise line's own insurance or third-party programs. The downside to buying the cruise lines' travel insurance is that they normally don't pay for medical costs incurred because of pre-existing medical conditions. And, should the cruise line go bankrupt-unlikely, but you never know--you're also not covered.Consumer Reports' highest-rated travel insurance companies in terms of items covered are Travel Guard and Access America. Both can be purchased directly or through your travel agent. To explore the items they cover and tally up the cost, go to their web sites: Access America and Travel Guard.Buying insurance doesn't guarantee your trip will be worry free, but it does alleviate enormous problems that may arise when Murphy (as in Murphy's Law) is also booked to sail on your voyage. For me, it's a small price to pay for piece of mind.NOW, PASS THE PINA COLADA!
Thanks to Anne Campbell for her contribution of this article